File photo of Ebrahim Raisi Photograph:( AFP )
Raisi is set to take over as Iran's president at a critical time
Ebrahim Raisi (60), an ultraconservative cleric was declared winner of Saturday's presidential election in Iran. He will be the next president of the country. His victory was widely anticipated after many political heavyweights were barred from running.
Raisi won 62 percent of the vote with about 90 percent of ballots counted from Friday's election, poll officials said, without releasing turnout figures, after the three other candidates had conceded defeat.
"I congratulate the people on their choice," said outgoing moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who has served the maximum of two consecutive four-year terms and leaves office in August.
Raisi is set to take over as Iran's president at a critical time. Iran is currently seeking to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers in the world and also seeking to free itself from crippling US sanctions that have caused economic downturn in the country. Iran had struck a nuclear deal with US and other world powers but US under Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, creating uncertainty about future of the deal. After Joe Biden became US president, talks to rescue the deal started.
The head of the Iranian judiciary, whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam's Prophet Mohammed, Raisi is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate political power in Iran.
Friday's voting was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50 percent or less.
Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls including 40 women had been winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.
Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday's vote.
Populist former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those barred from running by the Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, said he would not vote, declaring in a video message: "I do not want to have a part in this sin."
Raisi's victory was confirmed Saturday when he received the congratulations of the incumbent and the three other candidates -- ultraconservatives Mohsen Rezai and Amirhossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, and reformist Abdolnasser Hemmati.
Khamenei hailed the election saying that "the great winner ... is the Iranian nation because it has risen up once again in the face of the propaganda of the enemy's mercenary media".
(With inputs from agencies)